Each year, there are a number of films released during the Christmas season in order to get families to spend time together watching another family having their traditional meal and open their gifts. This year we have Christmas with the Coopers a film which is like several road trips in one, all trying to get to one house so they can congregate on Christmas eve, spend time together and have that huge meal they’ve been looking forward to. It’s one family meal you wish had never happened. With a wide array of characters and plots, there’s a lot going on so we’re helped along by a familiar and friendly narrating voice, Steve Martin. We have brothers and sisters, mixed with a couple of strangers and children travelling to a big family gathering on Christmas eve. The journeys they all take towards the big family house are varied. One is being taken away from a department store by a police officer for theft, another has landed at an airport who meets a stranded soldier, another is a waitress and an elderly man who she serves and invites to her family evening, there’s also the divorced couple, all making their way to their parents home.
It’s a simple way to show each character in their most vulnerable light, there’s the lonely sister (Marisa Tomei) of Charlotte (Diane Keaton) who has a heart to heart with her arresting officer (Anthony Mackie), there’s the daughter (Olivia Wilde) having an affair with a married man who convinces the soldier (Jake Lacy) to be her boyfriend for the day, the son (the ever overrated Ed Helms) who has recently lost both his wife to divorce and job to a computer and their parents (John Goodman and Keaton) who are inexplicably splitting up.
The interactions with these characters before they all get together mostly feels forced and as if they are just looking for an excuse to yell at each other, and it get worse when they are all in the same room. The only two who have any sort of interesting interactions are Bucky (Alan Arkin) and Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), both of whom speak to each other frequently in the diner she works at. He visits on a daily basis just to see her and after sharing conversations about all sorts of subjects (one of which includes old movies which he is teaching her about) she is leaving. This causes an argument and eventual forgiveness and an invitation to the big family meal.
The director, Jessie Nelson, has managed an incredible feat by getting terrible performances from Goodman and Keaton, two ordinarily reliable actors. How does someone do that? I suppose with an equally bad script, anything is possible. With a combination of terrible jokes, forced performances and ending in a dance number, it’s truly a film to be missed this Christmas season. A lot of these films are very much throw away movies, ones you will never see again. This one is a find all of the copies and burn them! This is one family meal that will leave a bitter taste in your mouth.